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Group asks Toronto mayor to prevent play

TORONTO — B’nai Brith Canada has asked Toronto’s mayor to "use his good offices" to prevent the staging of a controversial play at a city-owned theater.

The Jewish human rights group says "Seven Jewish Children" by British playwright Caryl Churchill is "blatantly propagandist" and "aimed at delegitimizing not only Israel but its Jewish supporters worldwide."

The 10-minute play is scheduled to run May 15-17 at the Theatre Passe Muraille, which the city saved from closing two years ago by purchasing the property for $1.2 million.

 "The City of Toronto should not allow a venue that it funds to be the staging ground for a divisive play that promotes anti-Jewish hatred," Frank Dimant, the organization’s executive vice president, said in a statement. "As its name denotes, ‘Seven Jewish Children’ does not even pretend to target Israel exclusively. It is clearly aimed at maligning Jews, depicting them as oppressors of Palestinians,  blood-thirsty aggressors and child killers. It disturbingly inverts history, using Holocaust imagery to allege that the Jews, once the victims, are actively teaching their own children callous disregard for the suffering of others."

B’nai Brith Canada called on Mayor David Miller to ensure "that our tax dollars are not inadvertently being used for the promotion of a play whose thrust is anti-Semitic."

Miller told the Toronto Star yesterday he doesn’t have the power to scrap the play.

"We own the building, but we don’t determine what theater groups in this city play, nor should we," he said. "I haven’t seen B’nai Brith’s complaint. I prefer to comment after I’ve seen it."

In a statement, the theater company’s artistic director, Chris Abraham, said he understands "the provocative nature" of the play but hopes audiences "will have the opportunity to form their own significant and meaningful responses to this challenging work."

The play has already generated controversy in Britain and in Australia. It had three sold-out performances in Montreal last Sunday, but while the Quebec Jewish Congress denounced the play in advance, it said there would be no attempt to stop the play from being staged.
 

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